BUEA, Cameroon, Oct 14 Reuters - A military police officer in the capital of the restive South West Region killed a 5-year-old girl on Thursday when he fired at a checkpoint on a car sparking angry protests, a senior regional official said.
The incident may further spark tensions in Cameroon's two French-speaking regions where secessionists angry with perceived marginalisation by the French minority have been battling government troops for nearly five years in an effort to form a breakaway state called Ambazonia. The Gendarme blocked the car which refused to obey ; he opened fired on the vehicle. A child who was being accompanied to school by her parents died, said the senior official who requested anonymity because he was not authorised to speak to the media. The Gendarmerie had no official comment.
Hundreds of residents took to the streets in protest, some waving tree branches in a sign of peace, while others waved 500 franc CFA currency notes $0.88 which they said was how much the girl's parents refused to pay before the gendarme opened fire.
This wasn't just because of the fact that if the city had refused to pay in excess of 500 cFA francs, what happened? It's too much, said a protester, who said the incident was part of a pattern of highly militarised security forces harassing local residents.
He declined to give his name for security reasons.
All they do is intimidate people. If you don't have an identity card, it's a problem, said another protester who also declined to give his name.
What began as violent protests in 2016 quickly degenerated into a peaceful insurgency pitting separatist groups against the army. Over 3,000 people have been displaced and nearly a million killed, with the two sides accused of inflicting atrocities.
Videos shared online showed one protester marching at the front of a crowd, carrying the stricken corpse of the child. Another video showed a gendarme on the ground being stomped on by protesters. Reuters was not able to authenticate the video.
The protesters took the corpse to the regional governor's office, where he promised swift action.
How do children get killed when they are on their way to school? Governor Bernard Okala Bilai said as he tried to calm the crowd. You can rest assured that those who have paid will pay. During the protest, sporadic gunfire erupted elsewhere in the town, forcing residents to take cover, a Reuters witness said. Who was shooting to prevent confusion?